I’ve been volunteering at a garden in a swanky north Scottsdale neighborhood. I met a woman through a Junior League event and she asked for some help getting their garden beds started. We planted way, way too much the first time around — but thanks to a great irrigation system, it grew like wildfire.
We pulled the beds clean last week and started over, working coffee grounds into the earth and planting several varieties of sunflowers, which will do great with the impending heat. I love to plant sunflowers for those sweaty July days when I’m desperate to spend time outside. They are low maintenance, good for the birds and good for your soil. They give me something to water without giving me too much to do when it is 100-plus.
Turning over the beds a bit early due to timing of volunteer schedules meant I came home with a bag full of green tomatoes. Also, a bag full of herbs and a bunch of jalapenos. We are going to a Kentucky Derby party this weekend in the neighborhood, so I sent a generous bag of mint down the street for festivities prep. Otherwise, I turned to canning books to figure out what to do and landed on two recipes: pickled peppers, and green tomato chutney.
I goofed up a bit on both, as I’m prone to do the first time with a canning recipe. On the peppers, I did not pack the jar tight enough — as the instructions said. So, there is a lot of brine for little spice, but we’ve been eating them and they are great. Second, the chutney called for brown sugar and I should have known better and automatically cut the amount in half. We don’t eat a lot of sugar and this chutney is delicious and way, way too sweet. It will be good for roasting meat in the crockpot.
And oh, the herbs. OH THE HERBS.
I’m using as much of this as possible this week in sauces and freezing the rest. I love to use lavender in sachets — not to cook with. Additionally, I cut some hollyhocks from the garden for the house.
I loved walking with that class of kids through the garden and talking shop. They asked smart questions and their minds were blown when I handed them tiny pieces of mint to eat. “IT TASTES LIKE GUM!” A Willy Wonka moment.
Our friend Sagar came over last weekend for dinner. He is quite the foodie, and is intimidating to cook for. (The type of foodie who spent six months working on a croissant recipe until it was perfected.)
So… I over thought this. We ended up grilling steaks, with carmelized onions and mushrooms. We roasted sprouts and asparagus, made some pesto with basil from the garden and made bread. The bread was a multi-day process, but it was well worth it.
Also, there was chocolate whiskey cake. And it was a bit dry, but I loved it.
Add the rest of that whiskey to the party, and it became a partaaaay. It was fun to spend time with Sagar and his pup, Voo.
My church is leading a series on money—namely how we have fears associated with money, which lead to careless behaviors. (I first typed that as “carless behaviors,” which could either be a poor financial decision, or the result of some seriously fabulous environmental frugality.) This series has me thinking about budgets and how to save more to help those in need. Homelessness, hunger and refugees are always on my heart. If I spend less on say, the Old Navy clearance rack—on things that aren’t made well, I’m not going to wear often, and I will sooner than later take to Goodwill—I can instead give more.
I want to consume less and be more thoughtful about what I can do with the money I earn.
Fashion is art. I struggle a bit spiritually with the balance between fashion and vanity. And, fashion inherently feeds consumerism. So, I am challenging myself to not buying anything new to wear for six months. Instead, I’m going to be creative with the ample closet I own, and mix and match with some creativity.
This challenge is set to turn that on its head. Instead, I’m going to wear what I have and celebrate it. And in this, I hope to be more mindful about what I purchase in the future. I’m also looking forward to being a bit more polished and inventive—which I will do when I know I’m posting a photo of what I’m wearing.
Join, if you are interested. I’ll be posting photos to Instagram (@africankelli) and a few here and on Facebook. Let frugal fashion reign!
Jason finished up the addition to the garden bed this weekend, including a new irrigation system — which will come in handy as soon as temps climb over 100 and hauling buckets of water gets old. I am thrilled! Three weeks ago, I planted cucumbers and zucchini by seed, and with the addition, I was able to thin the starts by replanting them in the new bed. Additionally, we planted more tomatoes, onions, and I’m trying melons for the first time.
I am thrilled with this crazily (perhaps suggestively) shaped garden. It was my Christmas gift and I am so happy Santa heard me! And really happy we are all heirloom and organic. I mixed egg shells into the soil this morning and sprinkled everything with a heavy dose of bone meal. We are going to have a bounty of vegetables in a couple months. I’m dreaming of an early-summer tomato party, and trying pickles again with all those cukes.
A house feels like a home to me when I can get a garden going, especially one where I’ve had the time and resources to work the soil. I know with time, this will be my best garden yet.
We have broccoli, peppers and onions going strong in the garden. We’re soon adding an addition to the garden bed — a separate bed solely for tomatoes. I’m thrilled. We’ll fill it two-thirds with organic compost and soil, and then work in epsom salts, crushed egg shells and top it with straw. Apparently straw helps prevent moldy growth on tomatoes and will reduce the amount of water needed. The egg shells prevent the soggy bottom disease (a calcium deficiency) I had a few years ago.
The tomato starts are on windowsills and fill the bathtub upstairs. (You’ve got to get your sunlight and humidity where you can, man!)
I also bought a bag of bat guano at Native Seed when visiting Tucson last week. I am trying it with these tomato seeds (from Finny!) and will see what type of production it helps produce. This is one of my favorite parts of gardening: the experimentation.
Come May, I’m hoping for a wild harvest and salsa party. Andale!
January in central Arizona is citrus season. You’ll see citrus trees with arms bowing, full of fruit. And there are trees nearly everywhere — medians along major streets, parks, and plenty in backyards. Our trees didn’t do great this year; it’s normal for citrus to have an off season, even though they received ample water and fertilizer.
Thankfully, when we were out running errands this weekend, we noticed a small farm stand with bags of lemons for $1. (Considering we too have to pay about $1 a lemon at the market come July, I grabbed a bunch.)
With a bit of time, the oranges from our navel tree became the season’s first batch of marmalade. I like to add a full jar, with a diced onion and some garlic, to the crockpot when slow cooking pork roast.
The lemons were juiced and saved. We use these cubes in ice tea, cooking and baking. It makes the January bounty last well into the year.
(And bone broth. Do you do this? It is so easy, and I swear it’s upped my cooking game. We keep our rotisserie chicken bones and slow cook them with vegetables and spices. After several hours, I strain the liquid into mason jars, which go into the freezer. We use these to cook rice, beans, for the base of sauces, etc.)
An update from the Heirloom Hacienda. Tomorrow: what’s happening in the garden (including the addition of another bed!)
The plate wall is up. I appreciate that it is a little wonky and full of trees. The green jadeite platter is my favorite, and I’m happy to showcase it. I used these plate hangers after a good bit of research and they are absolutely worth the expense. They worked like a charm!
The linen closet is sorted and it makes me smile to see this odd collection of vintage sheets in their new home.
I really am loving turning this place into our home! This week: selling a few pieces of extra furniture, putting together the dining room table, setting up the sewing/craft room and hosting some girlfriends for my first happy hour.
Nelson and I have found our new three-mile walking path. It is just long enough for him to need a nap on the cool tile when we return and for me to catch up on just enough world news. Once it cools, we’ll hit the nearby trails for morning adventures. For now, we watch the heavy gray afternoon clouds come over the Superstitions and pray for just enough rain to water the garden and break the heat, but nothing strong enough to damage the giant backyard mesquite.
We soldier on, trying not to complain too much about this heat. (And I’m plotting a quick beach getaway.)
This life is so much better than just enough. My heart is full and very happy!
These will stay in peat pots for another two weeks before being transplanted. This is just the first half of the 65 or so heirloom tomato babies I have going in my kitchen. It is going to be a big year for tomatoes around the homestead.
In other news, I’m making grapefruit marmalade and rosemary lemon cake this week too; time to stock the pantry shelves and our bellies with the abundance of citrus this time of year!
What are you growing? Cooking? Canning?
Apparently, we also make candles now. Also — I’ve become a regular camp counselor on the weekends when it comes to arts and crafts. I am enjoying having several kids in my life who want to spend this time together, and are very creative. I foresee a lot of Thanksgiving and Christmas glue gun shenanigans in our future.
This weekend, we tie dyed. (Not a very well kept secret: I LOVE TIE DYE. I am fairly incapable of buying t-shirts at restaurants, for example, if they are tie dye. Also: I frequent restaurants that sell t-shirts. I am a classy dame.)
Back to the topic at hand: Guys — tie dyeing is easy and so fun! (And not expensive. We made five shirts and two aprons for less than $30 with all the supplies.)
We will be making more of these.